Jonny Chan of TBG Digital is a Weasel

By: Dennis Yu


Today we have a guest post by Dennis Yu.

Jonny Chan of TBG Digital is a Weasel
by Dennis Yu

Jonny Chan is a clever kid.  He’s worked on some of the largest Facebook ad campaigns to deliver tremendous results.  But two years ago, he knew little about Facebook ads.  He messaged me constantly, sometimes multiple times per day, asking me to teach him how to do Facebook marketing.  He wanted me to take him to visit Facebook.

This is a tale of a man who made a quick buck on us, only to see the world is a small place.

“Who are you?” I asked, since at that point he was some random guy on the Internet.  And I was curious why he was so insistent.  He identified himself as Jonny Chan and said that I should teach him everything I know about Facebook marketing.  I asked why.  Because he wants to learn, he said.  But why should I put aside what I’m doing to invest time in teaching a total stranger?  Because he wants to learn, he said.

And if only i had paid more attention to the warning signs then.

I said we’d hire him under the condition that he agree to stay with our company until IPO.  My number one fear was that he was here only to get free training from our fledgling company, then ditch us later.  Prior to joining our company, we had three conversations about this, where he swore he was in it for the long haul.

Do kids eager to find jobs say stuff like this?  Of course.  Do people routinely change jobs in Silicon Valley?  Certainly.  Do people lie about their situation and evade you when caught?  Not as often.

Ever lent money to someone who said they need it to buy food, but then find out they bought liquor with it?  Shame on them for being dishonest, but shame on you for falling for it.  Jonny Chan told us he needed to leave because he had family to care for in Hong Kong and that he was not explicitly working in the same industry.  We took him at his word and bade him farewell, with hopes that his family situation would improve.

But when someone saw that Jonny Chan was working for TBG Digital doing the same thing as what he did with us- making Facebook ads and using our techniques, I was disappointed.  He ignored my emails and calls.  It wasn’t until I contacted TBG Digital to verify this that he finally responded.

And his defense was that non-competes are not enforceable in California.  To which I said that legal is not the same as ethical.  All he had to do was just be honest and say he really wanted to work somewhere else and didn’t mean what he said to get in.  Or even when caught, he needed to only acknowledge that it was a selfish move on his part and he was sorry.  That would have been acceptable to us.

But instead, he dug himself in deeper by saying TBG Digital is not in the same space, that he had no obligations to us, and that he’s sorry we are unhappy.  Tip: if you want to anger someone, tell them you’re sorry that they feel that way.  That not only dodges the issue, but tells them you’re sorry they are such an idiot.

Parents, the world is not easy out there.  Teach your kids that just because you can get away with it, doesn’t make it right.  What appears to seem like an easy shortcut in taking advantage of someone will actually hurt you down the line, like a credit card that is overdrawn and overdue.  The world is a small place, and the relationships you build over time are based on micro transactions with deposits and withdrawals.

In the world of business, it’s easy to steal and rationalize it.   Jonny Chan had every excuse in the book, and will likely hop to the next opportunity once TBG Digital doesn’t look as attractive.   Or perhaps his cleverness will finally catch up to him.

We have had a lot of people come and go, just like you have seen in the places you work.  In one case, it’s an expectation people move on, such as the agency world.  In another, you take a personal interest in developing someone and spend personal time training them up.  In this case, Jonny Chan not only got training for free, but got paid for it, and leveraged that into a job at TBG Digital, a well-respected competitor of ours.


Maybe Jonny will one day appreciate what he got, but this is the last we say about it.  Better things to do.  If you are hiring people at your firm, watch out for the Jonny Chans.  Careful of how deeply you invest in people unless you really trust them.

And yes, he did get his visit at Facebook- in fact, we took him twice.

One Response to “Jonny Chan of TBG Digital is a Weasel”
  1. Paloma @ingresos pasivos January 4, 2012 at 6:40 am #

    Estimado Dennis:

    Jonny Chan, ¿Es una persona real? El artículo me parece bueno para prevenir e informar de malas artes, pero espero que ese no sea el nombre real de una persona. Eso tampoco me parecería correcto.

    Recibe un cordial saludo.

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